Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

The Original Amazing Race (Race Around the World Week)

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne is a timeless classic.  It was first published in 1873 and is still going strong 140 years later. Phileas Fogg enters a bet with members at his Reform Club.  He wagers that he can go around the world in 80 days, which, of course, was quite a feat in pre-aviation days.  The prize:  £20,000, and more  costly, Fogg’s reputation. The competitors: Phileas Fogg along with his valet, Passepartout.  The year: 1872.  The outcome: An unforgettable adventure!   It’s not just the exotic locales of India, Hong Kong, and Japan that make this novel so alluring, it’s the great characterization of Fogg and Passepartout. Phileas Fogg is a self-assured, persnickety, wealthy man who has an obsession for calculated precision.  He controls every detail of his life with meticulous consideration.  He demands the correct temperature of his shaving water and determines the amount of gas to be allotted for the lights in his house.  He’s compulsive and would drive anyone crazy, but somehow in the book, he’s also extremely likable. He is a quick, analytic thinker and can solve problems at the drop of a hat. His valet, Passepartout, is a loyal, honest man with a varied work history that includes singer, circus rider, gymnast, and fireman.  Unlike Fogg, he’s prone to make mistakes. But together they are a good team to work their way through the challenges of the race. 

They would have been great contestants in the Amazing Race TV show (my favorite show, BTW).  I could just see the caption under them as they’re jostled back and forth on the backs of elephants in India: “Employer and Valet.”  Passepartout would be an instant hit—the underdog, the lowly employee working hard to diligently complete the tasks at hand. At first it may take the viewers a bit to warm to the stuffy Fogg. But sure enough they would be won over by his calm, collected demeanor, and the fact that he’s always the gentleman no matter how stressful the situation.  Likely to be a favored team in the race, the audience would cheer them on through each new leg and commiserate with them at each U-Turn or Speed Bump. And finally, we’d hold our breath as they race to the final pit stop, where host, Phil Keoghan, would look them in the eyes and pause. Would he say “I’m sorry to tell you that you have both been eliminated from the race”? Or would he smile and say, “Phileas and Passepartout! You have covered nine countries, three oceans and three seas, in eighty days around the world!” Then he could finish it with the words everyone wants to hear. “Congratulations! You are the official winners of the Amazing Race!”  Then we’d all cheer from our sofas and text our sisters a big “Woo Hoo!” 

And that’s how this book is—fun and exciting.  You’ll cheer Phileas and Passepartout on to the last stop. I loved this book—the original Amazing Race.  

As with so many classics, this book is available free online.  Visit

Happy reading,

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